MP introduces bill to restore tax benefits

  • Dec. 20, 2010 1:00 p.m.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen has introduced a bill that would restore the full northern residents tax deduction to everyone living on Haida Gwaii. Mr. Cullen brought the bill forward on Dec. 15, a week after Parliament voted in favour of his bill calling for a ban on oil tanker traffic along the north coast. The MP said it was “ridiculous” that Canada’s income tax regulations don’t recognize Haida Gwaii as a northern and remote community. Islanders did receive the full deduction until the program was amended in 1993. At that point, the islands were listed as an “intermediate zone”, and residents became eligible for only half the deduction. Depending on income, the full deduction can be worth more than $5,000. Mr. Cullen said Haida Gwaii, like other isolated areas of Canada, has many resource sector jobs that tend to be seasonal or fluctuate through cycles, making it difficult for employers to recruit and retain workers. Haida Gwaii is also much more isolated than other communities at the same latitude and residents face a higher than average cost of living because of freight charges. Additionally, the federal government itself recognizes the remoteness of Haida Gwaii in the pay scale of federal employees. Finally, he said, extending the full deduction to islanders will not cost the government very much, but it would have a big local impact. “We’re just trying to crack this nut that is Revenue Canada,” he said this week, adding that islanders have been trying to get the full deduction back for many years with no success. “At the very least, I think the people of Haida Gwaii deserve an explanation… All we’re asking for is a transparent formula.” Mr. Cullen said the quickest way for the federal government to deal with his bill would be to incorporate the change in the 2011 budget, which will be voted on in the next couple of months. If that doesn’t happen, it will likely take his bill six to eight months to wind its way through Parliament, Mr. Cullen said. A positive vote is not assured, although Mr. Cullen, a member of the NDP, was successful in gathering Liberal and Bloc Quebecois support for his oil tanker bill.

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